IT was yet another milestone for Jim Clinton on Saturday at The Waterworks as he became the first runner in Ireland to complete 500 Parkruns.
Affectionately known as ‘Parkrun Jim’, the 61-year-old said he first took up running in a bid to improve his health over 10 years ago, and loved it so much it led to him running them nearly every single weekend for 11 years.
“I was just coming up to 50 years of age when I started, and I hadn’t any background with running, but I decided to start doing something and to get involved,” he said.
“I was delighted; it was that feeling of having accomplished something at my age. A lot of sports people achieve things when they’re younger.
“Parkrun gave me the opportunity to do something sporting wise at an older age. It felt great crossing the line at 61 years of age, and being the first person in Ireland to do it.”
The West Belfast runner said he would have completed his feat earlier, but events were called off for the majority of the Covid-19 pandemic, and has stated he has missed only around 11 events, or one for each year he’s been running.
“If you cut out things being shut down to Covid, it’s taken me 10 years,” he pointed out.
“I think I’ve missed only 11 over the 11 years I’ve been doing Parkrun, so about one a year. I’m there every Saturday morning.”
Jim said running and volunteering with Parkrun had given him the confidence to achieve goals for himself, and also to help others take up their running journey.
He cited Parkrun’s welcoming environment, and community spirit in being top reasons why he has been passionate about running for so long.
“I ran on a treadmill for a long time before I had the confidence to go out on the road,” he explained.
“From the Parkrun came 5k runs, 10k runs, half marathons, marathons and one ultra marathon.
“I like to move around Belfast a bit for the runs. I’ll do Waterworks, the Falls, Colin Glen, but I’ve also done them in England, Scotland, and America and all over Ireland.”
Not only has Jim’s journey been a personal journey of self-improvement, but he has also been running with local group ‘The Freedom Runners’ who welcomed him with open arms and encouraged him to also help others get involved in running.
“It’s a community, we’re all at the same level, we’re not racing, we’re running,” he explained.
“It gets people up out of their bed on Saturday, gets them exercising, gets them meeting up with other people.
“We encourage people to not go home right away, but stay and have a chat or grab some food.
“I run with a group called ‘The Freedom Runners’ and they were doing it long before I joined, setting out tables, gazebos, putting out food and encouraging people and it’s always a great morning to go down there and take part.”
Asked if he plans to keep on going, Jim said he had no plans of stopping now, and although Parkrun officially don’t have any more milestones to mark once a person gets over the 500 mark, he said he would continue to take part and work with others in the local running community.
“The milestones are 50, 100, 250, 500, but I definitely plan on continuing doing them, and volunteering with Parkrun to help others get into running,” he confirmed.
“I try not to organise any other runs on Saturdays so as to not interfere with Parkrun, and this Saturday, I’ll be there.”
As for Jim’s ambitions for the coming year, he said the congratulations he received from friends, family and colleagues who turned up to see him complete his milestone had further encouraged him to keep at it,.
He confirmed he had upcoming plans to do the Belfast and Dublin marathons, plus a half-marathon in Carlingford.
“Quite a number of people have contacted me coming up to the day and afterwards to say how much it meant to them that I’d helped them get involved in Parkrun and signed them up,” he continued.
“They said if it wasn’t for myself showing them that you can get up and get involved no matter your age or training that they wouldn’t have got involved, so that was really nice to hear.
“This year I’m looking forward to the Craic 10k on St Patrick’s Day and I’m also looking forward to doing the Belfast and Dublin marathons this year, as-well-as a half marathon in Carlingford.”